How Voting and Consensus Created the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM III)

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This article examines how Task Force votes were central to the development of DSM-III and DSM-III-R. Data were obtained through a literature review, investigation of DSM archival material housed at the American Psychiatric Association (APA), and interviews with key Task Force members of DSM-III and DSM-III-R. Such data indicate that Task Force votes played a central role in the making of DSM-III, from establishing diagnostic criteria and diagnostic definitions to settling questions about the inclusion or removal of diagnostic categories. The article concludes that while the American Psychiatric Association represented DSM-III, and the return to descriptive psychiatry it inaugurated, as a triumph of empirically-based decision making, the evidence presented here fails to support that view. Since the DSM is a cumulative project, this article calls for a more socio-historically informed understanding of DSM’s construction to be deployed in how the DSM is taught and implemented in training and clinical settings.

© 2016. The attached document (embargoed until 21/03/2018) is an author produced version of a paper published in Anthropology and Medicine and uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalAnthropology and Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2016


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